Muharram - Burdened by Ignorance Part 6

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Muharram 09, 1434 2012-11-23

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

For those of you who are conscious of the Islamic calendar, this is the month of Al Muharram which is one of the four sanctity or sacred secure months of the year.

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِندَ اللَّهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ

Indeed, the number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve; so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth, of which four are in-violable; that is the straight way… (Surah At Tawbah verse 36)

For those of you who are more conscious of the Islamic past or the Islamic history, it was during this month that what is called an Islamic dynasty or dynastic rulers were responsible for what has come down to us in our references as the tragedy or the massacre of Karbala’’ on the day of Aashura’’ i.e. the tenth day of the month of Muharram which is the first month of the Islamic calendar. You and I or many of us are aware that this incident is observed every year by some Muslims, (not by all Muslims), with an outpour of emotions; and as emotional as it is when it is considered in light of its details. It was a force of seventy odd committed Muslims clashing with another force of thousands of Muslims. We’ve said this before and we’ll repeat ourselves because repetition it seems, on this occasion, repetition is not enough. There’s been a subculture that has built in and around this occasion that has almost put it off limits to our rational consideration of what happened on that occasion. We need to take a more measured and a more analytical approach as to what happened on that day. Before we begin some thoughts about this (by) relying on the book of Allah and the guidance of His Prophet let us clear the air and acknowledge that there are some hadiths that did in fact say the tenth of Al Muharram is a day that should be observed by Muslims because it is the day when the followers of Musa were rescued from the tyranny of the Pharaoh and thus Muslims should be thankful on this day and Muslims should fast on this day or the tenth of Al Muharram. Let us say that there are hadiths that have to be filtered out from hadith literature. These hadiths, (and there’s a few of them), that want the Muslims to think or to believe that the tenth of Muharram is the occasion that dates back to Musa (alayhi as salaam) rather the occasion that is synonymous with Imam Al Husayn (radi Allahu anhu). Let us say that these hadiths are the fabrication of the enemies of Husayn in as far as the dynastic regimes that ruled- beginning with Muawiyah and there on. They pumped these types of hadiths to eclipse the occasion and the meanings of Aashura’’ or Karbala’’. Let us also add that there is no other hadith or no other ayah that we know of that tells us to honour a particular occasion of Bani Isra’eel. There are many ayaat and there are many ahadith that pertain to Bani Isra’eel. Almost one-third of the Qur’an itself relates to the adverse and the cantankerous history of Bani Isra’eel but none of them, (once again as far as we are aware), instructs us to observe a particular detail of that history. So here we find a hadith or hadiths that cannot fit into the context of the Qur’an and when that happens we are better off sidelining those types of hadith and this opens up a broader issue of the filtration of the body of hadith from alien hadiths that are in it. Now is not the time for that.

We go back to this event in which we have Muslims fighting Muslims. This is a hard thing to swallow but it is a fact of life and we still have these types of occurrences in our societies. (Take a) look around today at our world and what is happening in it and we will see that Muslims are fighting Muslims. As we mentioned previously and we will echo that idea here, Allah teaches us that it is not out (of the question). It shouldn’t happen but it is not impossible that Muslim come to blow with Muslims. The ayah in Surah Al Hujurat

وَإِن طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ فَإِن بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَىٰ

If there are two factions or two camps of Muslims who go to war against themselves, your duty is to reconcile them but if one side decides to continue its transgression against the other side then all of you… (Surah Al Hujurat verse 9)

If it was impossible for Muslims to face off at the battlefield we wouldn’t have had this ayah but Allah has created us and our human nature and He knows how we will interact with each other. So in this occasion we have Muslims who are facing off with Muslims which we think, (as a humble brother of yours), should open our minds pertaining to two very important issues that have to be addressed by our thinking ability- our God-given endowment of being able to think and reason.

The first one is the issue of legitimacy. Do we have, as Muslims in the world, or have we had in our history in the past rulers who were illegitimate? Before we are overwhelmed by the emotional component of this occasion we should ask ourselves: do we have illegitimate power structures that rule over us? This has to be answered. Before we step one step forward we have to answer this question. Do we have rulers and governments and administrations that are legitimate or do we have them as illegitimate? When we define legitimacy we don’t do that by going to an encyclopaedia somewhere of to a political scientist or ideologue; we refer ourselves to Allah and His Prophet- they are the ones who will define for us who is a legitimate ruler, what is a legitimate governance and what is not. This occasion of Aashura’’ has been with the Muslims for around fourteen centuries and still, every year, the Muslims who are observant of this occasion don’t communicate to the rest of the people- Muslims or non Muslims- that people can have legitimate authorities and they can have illegitimate authorities. Brothers and sisters- we feel constrained but we have to say it- on this day and tomorrow as much as you’ll here about this issue from speakers and preachers and from khateebs etc. and as much as you will hear the word Al Imam Al Husayn (radi Allahu anhu wa alayhi as salaam) and Yazid. You’ll hear that plentifully but this is not an issue of personalities per se. This is an issue of methodologies, this is an issue of orientation, this is an issue of principle. Why can’t we concentre on this area so that we can raise the smoke and the fog out of this occasion so everyone who knows about it regardless of their backgrounds- whether it is religious or political or whether it is national or ethnic, regardless of who they are- when you present them with these facts they can resonate with these facts and our minds can trump our emotions? The first question that should come to anyone’s mind provided our minds are present on this occasion is: was the dynasty or the regime or the ruling family of Yazid legitimate or was it not legitimate. The air has to be cleared on this subject and emotions by themselves are not going to clear the air! Yazid as well as his father Muawiyah have to be defined by the facts surrounding them. There were wars. Aashura’’s and Karbala’’ did not just happen out of thin air. There was a background and a backdrop to it. When Muawiyah was at war with Imam Ali (radi Allahu anhu wa radi Allahu anhu). There are many but this is not the time for the many, (so) just to sight one exposé of the nature of legitimacy verses illegitimacy, i.e. the legitimacy of Ali verses the illegitimacy of Muawiyah, thereafter king Muawiyah. One indicator that we never think through our history is we call Muawiyah a Khalifah. He’s a king, but this once again indicates that we never think through whatever we were involved. Whichever side you happen to be on, this is a fact of life. The Prophet of Allah had said, (and this was a hadith that is acknowledged by friend and foe), to Ammaar ibn Yaasir (radi Allahu anhu) the aggressive faction is going to kill you. When this war at Siffin occurred Ammaar ibn Yaasir was killed by the camp of Muawiyah so the Prophet’s hadith right now became self explanatory. Now we know who the aggressive faction or side is. Now we go back to the ayah in which the same word is used. OK.

وَإِن طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا

If two sides of Muslims find themselves at blows at the battlefield then… (Surah Al Hujurat verse 9)

Allah tells the rest of us that

فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا

… we should reconcile these two sides… (Surah Al Hujurat verse 9)

That’s the first thing should be done

فَإِن بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَىٰ فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي

… but if one side refuses to reconcile then the war effort should be directed against that side… (Surah Al Hujurat verse 9)

So the Prophet of Allah said in one of these statements that foretold future events that you, Ammaar, are going to be killed by al fi’ah al baghiyah. This faction of Muawiyah killed Ammaar so it incurred the Prophet’s description al fi’ah al baghiyah. Now, (at this point without pulling in other information), the question is, is this fi’ah of Muawiyah legitimate? Can it have the legitimacy that comes from the book of Allah and from the Sunnah of His Prophet? It cannot! Let’s be clear on this. There shouldn’t be any question marks and exclamation marks and all these other marks. No! It’s clear there is no legitimacy. Now, if we have a ruler who is not legitimate, the second question is… We said there are two issues that have to be cleared: the first one is the issue of legitimacy and the second is the issue of opposition. How are we to oppose illegitimate rulers or illegitimate rule? Opposition is at different levels. You can have a verbal opposition, you can have a media opposition, you can have a popular opposition, and then you can have armed opposition. The question that we have to clarify, (we’re sorry to say that after one-thousand-four-hundred years among ourselves we haven’t clarified this question), is when do we carry arms to oppose illegitimate authority? Here is where we bring ourselves to Imam Al Husayn.

Yazid, knowing that he’s illegitimate- he knows he’s illegitimate. First of all there is no inheritance of power in Islam. Just because you were born into a certain family and your father was a king then you as a son become a king! There’s no basis for this in the Qur’an or in the Sunnah but this is exactly what happened in this case. A son became the king of the Muslims, not the Khalifah- throw that word out. So in his attempt to secure that legitimacy, this Yazid who was in Damascus told his governors in Arabia particularly the ones in Al Hijaz in Makkah and in Al Madinah, to secure the bai’ah of three individuals thereby in Yazid’s mind he would have secured his public legitimacy. Abdullah ibn Az Zubayr, Abdullah ibn Umar and Husayn ibn Ali- these are the ones that he wanted to come out in public and endorse his rule. History has its details of Islamic opposition to the Umawi feudalistic dynasty but in as far as Husayn- he wasn’t willing and he wasn’t going to express his bai’ah to an illegitimate ruler. At this point Husayn wasn’t carrying any arms. You see- brothers and sisters, let’s take this step by step. Husayn is the grandson of Allah’s Prophet. We don’t say this with any asabiyah in it, we say this because of the virtues and the good influence that was generated in the house of the Prophet or the household of the Prophet by the Prophet himself. The Prophet of Allah, who is everyone’s point of reference, stayed thirteen years in Makkah and the word armed opposition did not appear in his statements or in At Tanzeel- there was no such thing as armed opposition. To put it in today’s language, the Prophet was going on with his own business communicating to people the message of Allah (and) the message of Islam but in the nature (or) the way power structures work, they can’t tolerate a person that they think is subversive. So they look at Muhammad ibn Abdullah as a subversive therefore he’s not going to be given his full civic character with the rights and the freedoms that belong to it. So they eventually after thirteen years turned antagonistic and not in any sense of the word- they turned antagonistic to the extent that they wanted to kill him. Notice, brothers and sisters, who wants to kill who? It wasn’t the Prophet of Allah who wanted to kill anyone, it was these people who were in power who wanted to kill him! So what do you do here when people who have militaries who have the materialistic and financial wherewithal when they turn against you? Now you become their target- you are wanted dead or alive; what is to be done here? When we take a look at the ayaat in the Qur’an we find after the Mushrik society in Makkah turned militaristically (and) antagonist towards Allah’s Prophet and those who were with him Allah gave them permission to defend themselves. This was the first time we hear about an opposition that can be called armed resistance. The ayah says

أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ

Permission from on high, from Allah, has been granted to those who have been oppressed (or) those who have been offended (or) those who have been aggressed upon or permission has been given to those whom war has been waged against them due to policies and procedures and strategies and politics of oppression and injustice and indeed Allah is capable of giving them victory and triumph. ((Surah Al Hajj verse 39)

This was when the Prophet had to by force, it wasn’t out of his own initiative; the fact of the matter is that he was forced to leave Makkah under the threat of the Mushriks arms and the Mushriks intention to kill him and finish him off. What do you do if the character of the same Mushriks of Makkah resurfaces now against Husayn? They look at him (and) they see him as a subversive, an insurgent (and) an outlaw. That’s the official perception of this one individual because he refused to endorse a power-structure that is illegitimate. In the character of his grandfather- now oppression and injustice he has been dealt; what does he do? Does he go and think “wait let me go and think of a plan of my own or does he listen to what Allah and His Prophet say in circumstances and conditions like this?” So when war was imposed upon him, he countered that war with a war within his own means. This is where we find a person who stands on principle during that time. Look- some people came up to him with good intentions and with the best advice and they said why don’t you go to Al Yemen. There you have a support base and the terrain there will help against what is being planned against you. He could have done that. That was a choice but he didn’t. Makkah is supposed to be the refuge. We know from the inception of Makkah, from the Abrahamic history, from its Abrahamic roots that Makkah is a place where Mustad’afs or homeless people go. Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi as salaam) didn’t have people of his own (and) he didn’t have a country of his own. Makkah became his place of residence. When this type of Makkah now due to the political developments of that time could no longer tolerate persons who it was meant for, Husayn had to leave. This is another area that has to be the attraction of our thoughts. The people of Southern Iraq, Al Kufa in the best possible wording pledged that they would support Husayn. We know from what happened thereafter that they abandon that pledge. This is another area that Muslims have to think about carefully. What do you do when you have thousands of people who say we support you but when the forces show up, when the Umawi regime with its military force i.e. ibn Ziyad on behalf of Yazid show up with their might you look around and where’s everyone. What happened? You were the ones who were saying you’re going to be supportive but all of a sudden that support evaporated. What happened? Should not this serve as a lesson for leaders or potential leaders or organisers who say that they have such and such support? Can they take that for granted? Has anyone learnt from this? Still, when they abdicated their written responsibilities Husayn stood on principle. What do you do? (In) the last moments in those their final days knowing what was about to occur he could have easily stepped out of that whole thing and said “you know- the balance of forces here are tremendously against my position so this is going to need more time and it’s going to need more education and it’s going to need more of the stuff that many people say today…” The issue is what happened to principle? Another issue is the issue of death itself. Some people think that when they are brought into the vicinity of death they begin to feel that death is going to occur in a day or two and then they also find that this is something that they can’t take anymore. Well, what’s wrong? We’re all going to die. When we Muslims repeat the fact of death in our salah everyday then when it’s about to happen we don’t want to be around? What type of commitment are we speaking about? This is what we are saying about the commitment of people in that time and the commitment of the people of our time. The ayah says

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

You have been assigned combat duty and you dislike it, but it may be that at times you feel you are pre-disposed to something that is bad (and) it turns out to be good for you and at times you are predisposed to something that appears to you to be good but it will turn out to be bad for you but Allah knows and you do not know. (Surah Al Baqarah verse 216)

Dear committed brothers and sisters on the course to Allah…

The years that we are speaking about was about the fifth, sixth and seventh decade after the hijra. The years that we are speaking about were sent down to us via the channels of those who wrote this history and the conquerors always write mainstream history. This is equally true in the world at large as it is true in our peculiar history- the conquerors are the ones who wrote this history. They didn’t write it in history books, the wrote it by attributing hadiths to the Prophet and by having court scholars who would register events from the point of view of those who were in power and we have inherited all of this and its become a scary discovery if Muslims were to trace the injustice of today to the injustice of those times. The monarchies that exist today are the offspring of the monarchies that existed at that time. Yesterday or the day before the Mufti of Saudi Arabia, (a person who is almost at a rank of Minister), comes out and he says, (we’re putting these in our own words but the general meanings is), “these people around who are criticising or assailing or verbally attacking the Saudi king- this Mufti calls him Wali’ Al Amr- are sick minds, fasid individuals and are tantamount to the enemies of Islam.” We don’t know where this person lodges his logic in (and) we don’t know where that comes from. The Book of Allah exposes the Pharaoh and the Pharaoh is the description of a person who has tremendous power and uses that power to contravene Allah and His Prophet. When someone speaks about a person in a public position, a decision maker, a king or a president he’s not speaking about his personal life. It has nothing to do with his personal life although we know that it is polluted with sins and transgressions. We know that but we’re not concerned with his personal life! When this person makes Makkah and Al Madinah off limits to all of the Muslims of the world (and) when Ghazzah is being attacked and maybe attacked in the coming months and in the coming years and we, as Muslims, cannot put our thoughts together (and) we cannot put our hearts together in Makkah?! Why can’t we do that? Someone is responsible! An ayah in the Qur’an says

وَلِتَسْتَبِينَ سَبِيلُ الْمُجْرِمِينَ

… so that the course of criminals may become explicit and clear. (Surah Al An’am verse 55)

Who are these criminals? Unknowns?! Crimes against humanity, war crimes and the list goes on- all of these happens as an act of nature or there are people who are responsible for these acts?! The information that comes to us from Allah and His Prophet tells us that we should not identify criminals or we should identify them and when we identify them should we expose the fact that they are legitimate or illegitimate, they abuse power, they have a thriving prison population?! There are no civil rights, no civic rights, no natural rights, no political rights, no rights at all in some of these countries?! A person becomes a ruler because he’s born in a certain family and his son and grandson become Emirs and princes because they were born in that family?! Where is the justification, the explanation (and) the legitimacy for this from the Book of Allah and from the statements of His Prophet- we ask! If we ask these questions we are mufusideena fi al ard?! We are faasiqeen?! We are sick in our minds and in our hearts as this Mufti is saying because we are attempting to define and to categorise what Allah and His Prophet are telling us?!

Oh Allah we seek refuge from people like this who have made it possible for all of these years for this tyranny and this despotism to continue in our midst.

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